Another back to school season. I’ve been going or participating in back to school since before i was five years old. I did my time in preschool/nursery school, kindergarten, grades one through twelve, four years of undergraduate, two plus years of post graduate, and so far eighteen years of sending my kids back to school.
This year felt different. I’m not sure why. My two younger children are still in public school. My daughter is in her last year of middle school. My son is in his second year of high school. We saw them off on their buses yesterday. Maybe it’s that we’re barely home from vacation. All the laundry’s not quite finished. The sink is full of dishes, and we’re actually using paper plates this week!
I have my writing supplies. I’m mostly happy with my writing supplies, although that won’t keep me looking at new ones in the clearance aisles of Target and Staples.
Part of my back to school ritual is bringing change to my website. While I am an essayist, I don’t feel as though I keep a blog per se. I write articles. I follow themes. I offer something.
However, I’ve hit the block asking what is it that I actually offer? What more can I give? What can I do differently? And how can I incorporate my writing life into my children’s back to school life? Sometimes it flows, and other times, it really doesn’t. Today is one of those days. I’m going into the capital to see Dan Rather speak, and my daughter has a football game she’d like to go to, but doesn’t have a ride. This is one of the times where I give myself precedence. Normally, I’d acquiesce and change my plans. This can’t be one of those times.
Back to School is also about priorities. Choices. As a Mom, I feel as though I give up so much. Most of it isn’t anything earth-shattering or heartbreaking. As a Mom, I choose my kids first even if as teenagers they’re hardwired to put themselves first as well.
Overall, this week has been positive.
And that’s great because next week is the first full week of school, the first full week back from vacation, the first full week of Suicide Prevention Awareness month – a serious subject to tackle, but also one that needs tackling, more and more often. Awareness is Prevention, and I’ll need all my energy to plan out useful posts and resources.
I’ve been walking paths recently. All kinds of paths and roads and journeys. My six week memoir workshop is focused on paths this semester, but paths are always within my sight. We are all walking a path, sometimes like a tabletop game board. We’ve passed GO, we’ve collected something, probably not quite two hundred dollars, and we are on the square that says Back to School.
Roll the dice, and see how far we go!
Since my mother-in-law passed away, except for Thanksgiving which we spend with my sister-in-law’s family, we spend every holiday at home. We eventually get the dining room table cleaned off. We add a pretty table runner. No one drinks out of a can. Phones get confiscated, kind of. Each meal has its own traditions: Rosh Hashanah is roast chicken, challah bread, yams, apples. Halloween is pizza. Christmas is roast beef, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, caramelized onions, peas & carrots, dinner rolls, one year we had Yorkshire pudding. New Year’s are appetizers as is the Super Bowl. St. Patrick’s Day is corned beef and cabbage, mashed potatoes and carrots and of course, Irish soda bread. Passover is chicken, potato pancakes, carrots, matzo ball soup, matzo and butter, sometimes gefilte fish and/or chopped liver. Easter is roast turkey or chicken, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, carrots, and dinner rolls. We seem to eat a lot of carrots, don’t we?
Our oven hasn’t worked consistently for over six months. We got very lucky for Christmas that it did indeed work and we were able to eek out a delicious Christmas dinner as well as our yearly birthday cheesecake for my son. A few weeks ago we tried to bake cornbread as a side dish to something that I can’t quite remember. After the apportioned hour, it was still gooey. The oven, which had been set for 350 was only about 200 degrees warm, which was not enough to cook it. I scoured Facebook for directions on how long to microwave the cornbread and dinner was saved, but not before realizing we were going to have a problem.
From then on, we have been using our crock pot. Lasagna, meatloaf, roast (not quite roast but fully cooked and tasty) chicken. I intend to try bread in it, but I don’t have the energy quite yet, and either way, it’s Passover for the rest of the week.
On the Monday after Palm Sunday, I told my husband that it was decision time, so what would it be – fix the oven before Good Friday or eat out on Easter? He would fix the oven. He did his research online, found the part he thought was the problem, and went to order it. He thought it was twelve dollars; it turned out it was fifty. We already know we’re going to need to replace this oven in the near future. We’re waiting on a tax refund to see if it’s doable or if we need to go another year on crock pot/stove top meals (which have been working out okay to be honest, if a little more time consuming). We decided to eat out.
My oldest son would come home in the early morning from work before he went to sleep and then back to his next shift for our annual Easter egg hunt. I know they’re old, but they all play along and they get some candy, and I get some pictures and everyone has a fun time and some sugar high donuts and hot chocolate for breakfast. Then we’d nap and have dinner much later.
It felt weird from the moment we decided it. Would any place even be open? I know that Dunkin’ Donuts is open, and several places do a we’ll make the meal, you heat it, but we ignored the situation for a day or so more.Then I got two emails – Applebee’s was open as was Texas Roadhouse for Easter dinner. Hmm…not exactly what we were looking for, but who knows?
We finally settled on Cracker Barrel. We thought that would be the closest to eating at home. We’d allow everyone to get dessert if they liked to make it a little more special than a regular dinner out. I even got a salad. I also mandated no phones at the table. That worked for the most part. Not perfect, but what dinner ever is?
It was a lovely change of pace. I enjoyed it, and I’d consider doing it again, but I don’t know that I’d want to make it a tradition, but it worked out for everyone, and I was actually surprised how busy they were. I thought brunch time wold be busy, but we were there just before traditional dinner time, at around four in the afternoon, and it was busy. No one was waiting but it was crowded and the waitresses were constantly on the move. On our drive there, I was alos surprised at how many other restaurants were open and their parking lots relatively full: Friendly’s, TGIFriday’s, Panera Bread. Starbucks drive-theough was still buzzing, although the supermarket was closed and its parking lot was empty.
All in all, a grateful Easter celebration with most of the family.
It was actually kind of relaxing.
December always comes raring in. Thanksgiving is over, our families have left, we’re still feeling a little full. The air is crisp, and snow can be smelled on the horizon. December first comes on suddenly amidst end of year projects and parties, holiday shopping and decorating, lists and more lists, oh, and Christmas cards. In that first week is my birthday, Chanukah (this year), the letter with the schedules from church, some sort of special day at school that I’ve already forgotten about, but need to buy something for, and in this year, two birthday parties for my daughter to attend and seeing Aquaman a week earlier (tonight, in fact.)
It’s not my least favorite month, but it’s probably one of the busiest, and I think I may have finally learned not to overschedule myself, although I do have many extra medical appointments before 2019 comes and resets my deductible. But the good news is I get one more hour of therapy (at no cost) and my mammogram and colonoscopy both came back all good, which I’m thankful for.
My birthday adventure began with mass and breakfast and then I took myself to the movies: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald, and then dinner and cake with my family. They don’t like when I say this, but I like when my birthday falls on a weekday when they’re all at school or work. It gives me some private celebratory time that I don’t have to feel guilty about. Some years I’ve gone to a upscale shopping plaza, twice I’ve gone to the movies, although usually I go to Starbucks to relax and write and then go ornament shopping for myself at Target. I think this was the first birthday in recent memory that I didn’t find myself at Target. I also get to do all of this while not rushing around like a chicken without a head, and I’m still home by the time the kids get home from school.
I also had two retreats, one letting go of clutter workshop, and one Cursillo group meeting. All of these set me back on a calming, spiritual path. Sometimes we all need that reminder, and the Advent reflections are perfect for that reset. Unlike Lent, the focus is on waiting and anticipating as opposed to the penitential aspect of Lent. Advent feels refreshing and uplifting; a new start, like the beginning of the new year, only weeks away on the calendar, but already having begun for the Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic liturgical calendars. The Cursillo group is new to me. After having been introduced to the idea and the local people (called cursillistas), I am very much looking forward to next fall when I will undertake my own weekend and join with the group. It had been mentioned to me last year, and when I looked into it a bit more I realized that it is exactly what my inner being is looking for. The local group is lovely and they’ve welcomed me to their monthly get-together, so I can start some of the prayerful parts.
Our tree is up, although no lights and no ornaments. I don’t mind the half finished way our decorating looks this weekend. Our house is always cluttered, and it’s gotten a little worse this month, but when the tree is half done and the ornaments are still in the box, and the lights are strewn around the tree, but not on, it makes the normal clutter look like decorating clutter, and it gives us a pass. At least in my head it does.
This year is also a little confusing. It’s the first year that my son will be living on his own, and will need to come visit for the holidays, so I’m not sure how decorating and celebrating will go. I’m trying to be open about schedules, but it’sw hard with the other family members who have been doing things the same way for the last twelve years (for my husband since his childhood since we’ve adapted most of his family traditions into our family). Last year, my son was working three jobs, and since he’s in public service (first responder) and is required to work the holidays with extended shifts, we moved everything up one day. We celebrated Christmas Eve the day before and on Christmas Eve we had our traditional Christmas dinner and opened our presents. By Christmas Day, we were not sure what we were supposed to do. We still had a wonderful holiday, and I have no doubts we will again this year because we’re working around the most important factors – our family time together.
I had a bunch of pictures that I wanted to share, but I think I’ll save them for next week’s post, and simply leave this one of the Blessed Mother. She has become one of my go-go patrons. She comforts and uplifts me.
Have a blessed holiday, whichever ones you celebrate, and remember to take a few moments each day to reflect on where you are and where you are looking forward to going.
Today is Free Comic Book Day. Following the link will take you to their official website and use their location finder to find your local participating comic store. This is a family tradition for many families, ours included since the beginning.
Free comics, stickers, cosplay. It is great fun for all ages. Our comic shop collects for local charities as well, so it’s also a great community event.
I reassess how things are going at various times throughout the year. I think some of that attitude is due to therapy, the constant thinking on how I’m doing, how I’m feeling, what’s new, what’s stale, etc.
I usually start with Rosh Hashanah and look back again at New Year’s.
Spring is another good time to reassess how things are going, personally, professionally, spiritually, whatever needs assessing. I’m constantly assessing and reassessing my prayer life (when, how, what’s working, what’s not), my family life (discipline, family time, housekeeping, vacation plans, if any), and my writing life (outlines, content, major changes). Those are probably the three biggest for me.
What in your life needs a reassessment?
Ask yourself these questions:
Is this still working for me?
If not, what is it that’s not working?
What changes will help me move forward?
What can I do to do/be better? (Sometimes, it’s simply a minor thing, like getting up half an hour earlier or even wearing a favorite scarf or pin.)
The sun is shining more, the winds have died down, and it’s a bit warmer out (not this year in the Northeast, but we can hope for the coming change). It’s a good time to make changes when we’re coming out of our winter shell.
What changes will you make this month?
We’re more than halfway through Passover, and everyone is tired of matzo. Can’t we have pizza for dinner? Dinner rolls with our chicken? Pasta? Pleeeeeease.
We have always been an interfaith family. We didn’t attend religious services but we observed and celebrated all of the major holidays of both Catholicism and Judaism. That was how I was raised Jewish – following the traditions, participating in the observances, eating the holiday food. We’ve always had a Christmas tree in my married life. We are so blended that when I converted to Catholicism, my daughter assumed that my husband was the Jewish one since we’re both faiths and I was Catholic.
People blend their interfaith families in a myriad of ways. For me, I try to find a way to blend without overshadowing or ignoring either. I also don’t usually like to combine them. For example, I don’t like Jewish related ornaments on Christmas trees. I think that keeping the holiday traditions distinctive is better for our kids to appreciate both equally. We still celebrate Chanukah on Christmas if it falls that way. We will light the Chanukah candles and decorate the tree on the same day if timing demands it.
If we were spending Easter with my mother-in-law, I would not object to the kids eating bread or her special Peeps bunny cake. They deserved their special time with their grandmother during her special holiday.
I dread looking at the calendar to see when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall because my son’s birthday is in October and there’s a chance I will have to choose between fasting and praying and celebrating my son’s birthday. (My son wins every time. One thing about both the Jewish and Catholic faiths is that family is a priority.)
This year, Passover began right in the middle of the Triduum. From Holy Thursday through Easter, I spend about 11 and a half hours at church between the prayer services, parish dinner, masses, and the Easter Vigil. It is exhausting, but I love it. Right before that, my son was in the hospital, and our oven wasn’t working.
I did not even mention Passover until after Easter dinner*. Yes, we missed the first three nights, but Monday morning, bright and early, we were a bread free house. I realize it’s not kosher, but it’s kosher style, and they still get the dietary restrictions as well as the stories and the celebration of freedom from Egyptian slavery. They also love latkes, which I make more during the abundance of potatoes for Passover than for Chanukah. This year I made fried chicken tenders using crushed matzo in place of the bread crumbs. I had never done that before and it was well received. I believe we have a new tradition.
After the huge windstorm we had yesterday, we’ve had no power since about 12:30am, and won’t be getting it back until later tonight, or so I’m told. That means we will probably need to eat out, which means I probably won’t restrict their food choices. I can always make the matzo lasagna tomorrow night. Obviously, grocery shopping is also postponed.
The most important aspect of sharing a house with multiple religions is respect. Our two faiths are equal in importance and in worth. They are valued with the same respect and reverence. My time at church is important to me, and my family understands and accepts that. My time making latkes is also valuable and important to me.
We light Yartzeit candles for my parents and now for my mother-in-law, who wasn’t Jewish. I know she wouldn’t mind. We also have mass said for her.
I would love to hear from any readers who juggle this very issue of interfaith or multi-faith within your families. I think we do a good job, but it’s good to give acknowledgment to others who are doing a good job as well as getting ideas on other things we can do differently or better.
I hope your Easter is a blessed one and Chag Sameach for your Passover.
What other holidays do you celebrate (they don’t necessarily have to be at this time of the year)?
[*My husband jiggled the heating element for the oven, and so we were able to have turkey dinner for Easter.]
My second son was due on October 21st (in 2004). On the twenty-third, I was sitting in the backseat of our station wagon while he was sleeping in his car seat. His grandma, Dad, and older brother were in the orchard adjacent to us, amidst the trees, picking apples.
Each eating one from the tree as was (and continues to be) our tradition. We took a few photos of apples piled on him as he slept and compared the largest ones to his tiny head.
However, he was not two days old, but eleven having come nine days early after two excruciating days in unrecognized labor. His was the most difficult of my three pregnancies, but his kind and gentle personality, his compassion and willingness to help others makes all of that, not only worth it, but mostly forgotten. His birthday is filled with his favorite, cheesecake – the only child who gets a homemade birthday cake because I can do a great cheesecake – the best according to him. Thanks Philly!
We also always go applepicking and spend the rest of the season eating perfect New York apples in all its variety – cider, cider donuts, turnovers, pie, tarts, chutney, sliced, and the best way, right off the tree or right out of the bsket kept in the coolness of the back porch.
Warning for minor spoilers from both last season and shows that have already aired this season.